The conditions at the St. Paul Korydallos Prison Hospital gained publicity on February 15th 2014, when 180 prisoners with severe conditions, from HIV to cancer, refused to accept prison rations and medications, in order to protest the squalid conditions.
The hospital is housed in an old squalid building with infrustructures that have been out of date for the last 50 years. While ward capacity is limited to 5-6 patients, there are usually 8-10 people confined in each ward, increasing the risk of contagion. St. Paul infirmary is not only there to provide healthcare to the 2500 inmates currently incarcerated in Korydallos Prison but also admits prisoners from other correctional facilities, who are transferred there in order for the authorities to decide whether their hospitalization in a state hospital is necessary. The medical equipment is insufficient (there is only one x-ray room and one biochemical lab) resulting in limited to access to the right kind of healthcare services for patients who require secondary and tertiary care. There still isn’t an ambulance, in spite of all the commitments made by previous MoJs on this matter. The number of doctors and nurses remains insufficient and there is no on-call staff. Moverover, only those medications thought of as ”critical” are available to prisoners, while flu meds are considered a luxury. Another demand raised in previous protests remains unresolved: the prison hospital has still not been integrated in Greece’s national healthcare system .
The prison hospital houses many prisoners with disability that exceeds 67% and at times 80%, while geriatric patients facing long sentences are basically awaiting for their death. The first wave of mobilizations in 2014 was victorious since article 4322/2015 came into force. Theoretically, these legislative changes created a more inclusive legal framework since Article 110A provided that all prisoners with disability over 67% would be decarcerated after having completed a specific amount of time in prison. In spite of that, the judicial authorities refused persistently to accept disability certificates and ordered disability re-evaluations and for certain details on paper to be redefined by the competent authorities, in order to avoid granting release to those most vulnerable in prison. Judges literally nullified the law and forced severely disabled prisoners die within cell like wards, without being able to offer an alternative healthcare option due to the shortages in staff, medications and equipment mentioned above.
In reality it was a matter of choice for judges and prosecutors not to enforce the law since in a report they had characterized these changes as a ”a peril to public order”. Article 23 of law 4356/2015 which came next, legalized the arbitrary and hostile actions of the judicial authorities and abolished all beneficial provisions of the previous legislative changes . So, a progressive legal framework achieved through prisoners’ struggles was instantly nullified bearing a consequence that can be measured in lives lost: 1 prisoner dies every month in Korydallos Prison Hospital on average (13 deaths in 2016).
Nevertheless, the justice system uses these laws for the benefit of ”VIP” prisoners, its previous collaborators who happened to fall in the trap of the ”hunters of corruption”. So, prisoners like Tsochatzopoulos and Papageorgopoulos, politicians involved in financial scandals, benefited from these provisions which secured their release, proving that justice is always class related.
At the same time, women in Korydallos prison began to mobilize since Monday March 27th in order to claim the fundamental right to healthcare. Their demands include the release of prisoners that suffering severe illnesses, an increase of medical staff whose work hours until now are limited to a few hours per week and getting new equipment. This struggle was inspired by the case of a female prisoner who suffers from a severe health issue and has only got a few months left to live and in spite of her circumstances remains incarcerated.
Prisons, besides being conducive to the perpetuation of the capitalist system, constitute a place where a large part of the working class is warehoused after having failed to become integrated in the production process. Managing this social segment based on the particularities of time and circumstances is controlled by the specific needs of the capital. So, at times the system prioritizes a model of rehabilitation in order to achieve prisoners’ integration to the process of production or ensure its profits from their free labour. Eventually in conditions such as the ones we are facing presently, this segment of the working class is part of an excess workforce which has no specific value for the capital and thus prisons mainly operate as ”warehouses of souls” abandoned to their fate, or even led to annihilation.
Dominant state policies are undergoing radical changes for the restructuring of the capital. Rights that were the outcome of bloody struggles in the past, are now gradually abolished following their re-branding as ”welfare” given ”out of the goodness of their heart”’, in order to essentially degrade the significance of those struggles and keep the social order. Nowadays, that a large part of the workforce constitutes in fact an excess, where the collective resistance of the exploited has diminished, our class is subjected to a massive attack by the bosses: salary reductions, pension and benefit cuts, precarious workfare, higher living costs.
In this context, the most devalued segment of our class – the uninsured, immigrants and unemployed- cannot cover the costs of their basic needs. Within these generalized conditions, the most impoverished part of the excess workforce faces the real nature of authority in the form of incarceration. Numerous prisoners are crammed in tiny cells, without heating or sanitation, with frequent beatings by prison guards, while their lives count ”differently” for the state : behind the closed doors of kolastirio, the women’s prison or any other correctional facility, people are either tortured or led to death. The actions of authority performed in obscurity outside of prison walls are repeated blatantly within prisons.
The problems faced by men and women in prison regarding access to healthcare or to be frank their exclusion from healthcare, resembles and is directly connected to the situations we all face as part of the lower social strata outside prisons. The healthcare system becomes dismantled and privatized leading to rising healthcare costs, with non or partial prescriptions of medicines that are crucial for patients’ survival and attempts to charge a fee for doctor appointments. This situation is even worse for immigrants since the authorities, contrary to the law, refuse to provide them with social security numbers, thus leading to inability to access services.
Solidarity with the struggle of disabled/ill prisoners in Kolastirio or the struggle of women prisoners in Korydallos for the right to healthcare, as well as solidarity with all the struggles for humane conditions in prison, for furloughs, or against the violations of the rights of political prisoners, is an essential aspect of class struggle.
The struggles of the exploited and the oppressed who resist the onslaught of the state and the capital, demanding to live their lives on better terms, regardless of whether these struggles are taking place inside or outside prisons, are necessary. They are necessary so we could live, breathe, realize our own potential when we stand united, find ways for more effective struggles. But, we are aware that struggles are not enough because the exploitation and oppression in every aspect of life, the imperialist wars, the murders and dislocation of thousands of people, the destruction of nature, the sweat shops, the psychiatric hospitals and prisons constitute structural elements of a system based on a minority acquiring and accumulating wealth at the expense of a majority. If we want to live in a world without all of the above then our struggles must connect to a revolutionary perspective aiming to the destruction of state and capitalism.
IMMEDIATE FULFILMENT OF THE DEMANDS OF ILL/DISABLED PRISONERS IN KOLASTIRIO AND KORYDALLOS WOMEN’S PRISON
FOR A WORLD WITHOUT PRISONS AND AUTHORITY
Anarchist Assembly on the East
Thessaloniki Libertarian Initiative
*kolastirio means purgatory in Greek